The Los Angeles Chargers run game was severely hampered in 2016, with Branden Oliver tearing his Achilles during the preseason and Danny Woodhead tearing his ACL during Week 2. Melvin Gordon, on the other hand, was able to stay healthy until Week 14, when he was forced off with a hip injury, allowing Kenneth Farrow to step into the number one spot. How will all these backs fare next season? Let’s find out.
Jan 26, 2017; Orlando, FL, USA; Los Angeles Chargers running back Melvin Gordon (28) signs autographs after practice at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Coming off a very disappointing rookie season (641 yards, 0 touchdowns), hopes were not high for Gordon. After spending the offseason training with future Hall of Fame running back Adrian Peterson, Gordon’s play in the 2016 season improved drastically.
He was just three yards short of his first 1,000-yard season and scored two touchdowns through the air and 10 on the ground. With that much production through only 14 weeks of the season, Melvin was easily one of the best fantasy players from last season.
Gordon announced that he will again be training with Peterson during the offseason, boding well for his upcoming year. As long as Gordon remains healthy, there is no question that he is the best running back on the Chargers fantasy wise.
Aug 19, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers quarterback Kellen Clemens (10) hands the ball off to San Diego Chargers running back Branden Oliver (43) during the second quarter of the game against the Arizona Cardinals at Qualcomm Stadium. San Diego won 19-3. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports
Oliver tore his Achilles during the preseason last year, keeping him sidelined for the entirety of the Chargers 2016 campaign.
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While Oliver has been able to produce adequately in the past when given the opportunity, those opportunities seem to be very limited. Oliver is mostly useful in fantasy as a boom-or-bust change of pace back or as a potential handcuff to Gordon.
If Gordon does go down (knock on wood), Oliver or Farrow will presumably earn the role of the starter. If you plan to draft Gordon, acquiring Oliver is a smart way to ensure one of your running back slots and maintain decent production even in the worst circumstances.
With Oliver, Woodhead, and Gordon sidelined, Farrow was forced into a starting role Week 14 of last season. Although Farrow got a lot of attempts, he struggled greatly to produce, rushing for only 192 yards on 60 carries. In terms of fantasy, this made Farrow essentially obsolete, but in this upcoming season if Farrow remains on the team, he will be fighting with Oliver for the backup role to Gordon. Ultimately, Farrow holds little to no value otherwise.
Aug 12, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Giants running back Andre Williams (44) in the second half at MetLife Stadium. The Miami Dolphins defeat the New York Giants 27-10. Mandatory Credit: William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports
While the running backs previously mentioned take up the majority of the Chargers work load, others contributed as well. Andre Williams, Ronnie Hillman, Dexter McCluster, and even Derek Watt contributed to the Chargers run game, some with more success than others.
McCluster essentially took over Danny Woodhead’s role as the pass-catching running back, and his production was mediocre but irrelevant in fantasy terms.
Williams rushed for 87 yards on the season, making him worthless in fantasy, but perhaps he could get more carries this season if he remains on the team.
Hillman had very slight production, rushing for 131 yards, but his inconsistency made him invaluable in fantasy.
Watt, the Chargers’ fullback, saw extremely limited use, rushing for four yards on the season. While he could see a slight uptick in production in his sophomore season, he remains irrelevant in fantasy as a blocking fullback.
While Gordon is clearly the Chargers’ feature back and also one of the premiere fantasy options at the running back position, players such as Oliver serve important roles in the running game as well, giving them some value in the fantasy world. While Farrow and the others could by circumstance see an uptick in production, they are likely useless as fantasy assets unless new circumstances arise.